Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 29 October 2020

Faith and family become paramount for a young lover of fiction

Throughout my teenage years I was an avid fan of Japanese culture. Anime, manga, video games, I thought they were all brilliant.

Throughout my teenage years I was an avid fan of Japanese culture. Anime, manga, video games, I thought they were all brilliant. They helped me attain much of what I once thought was the supreme height of joy. I was so caught up in my fantasy worlds that when I learnt of the high suicide rate in Japan despite the vibrant pop culture it stunned me. In my defence, I was 13 years old or so at the time, but it's still embarrassing.

Gradually, as I grew up, I explored more of the culture available to me. I fell in love with Alexandre Dumas'sLe Comte de Monte Cristo. I devoured Agatha Christie's crime novels. Victor Hugo's The Laughing Man haunted me and I still think it trumps Les Misérables. One summer my sisters, my aunts and I read Hemingway's The Old Man and the Sea and agreed it was the most boring and pointless novel ever. Today, I still think it is boring but I appreciate the simple straightforward style of this master's prose and his universal theme of man versus nature.

There were more video games and more horror, adventure and fantasy stories to conquer when I hit 18. I loved Tomb Raider, Silent Hill, Final Fantasy VII, Parasite Eve, Samurai Shodown and many others. I saw many alternative movies. The more obscure and gritty, the better. Even then, I loved the illusion of realism in fiction. I visited gruesome video sites on the internet, "conspiracy theory" websites and angry bloggers who brought me endless entertainment.

I made it to university somehow and ended up studying literature. They had closed down the facultythat year and by the end of my five-years striving for my bachelor's degree I was visiting my professors' offices for lack of an official class and time. I was the only student left in my university studying literature. It never occurred to me what I would do with my major once I graduated.

Maybe teach? I had tried education and even visited a school in the first month. I fled in horror to literature. This was too much social anxiety for me; I could hardly stand just being an observer.

It seemed to me a playful time. Relatives were studying useful courses (business, IT, communication) and here I was reading and having the time of my life. The Necklace by Guy de Maupassant, WB Yeats's Among School Children, Dino Buzzati's The Falling Girl, Gabriel Garcia Marquez's The Handsomest Drowned Man in the World, Langston Hughes's Dream Variations, Rainer Maria Rilke's The Panther, Ezra Pound's The Pisan Cantos, Pablo Neruda's Walking Around, Leo Tolstoy's Anna Karenina, Anton Chekhov's The Lady with the Dog and many more works touched me deeply. I still think about them today.

I used to resist spoilers of any nature. I wanted to retain the utmost surprise and wonder of a work, whether it was a video game, a book or a film.

But as I matured, the worlds of fantasy and escape seemed to disintegrate over the years. I came not to care about fiction. Stories lost their appeal and non-fiction took precedence.

I began to see why poetry holds the attraction it does, and why religion is the haven it is.

In less than a month I will turn 28 and what is most important to me today is my belief in one God. And my loving son, my husband and my parents provide all the stories I need. There's no chance of spoilers, and perhaps that is one reason why my love for them persists.

 

Iman Ali is an Emirati graduate in English Literature from Zayed University. Raised in Scotland, she is now living in Gurgaon, Haryana, India and is writing The Great Emirati Novel.

Updated: January 12, 2011 04:00 AM

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